4 Tips for Talking Things Out

When Things Take a Wrong Turn: Talking Things Out

I spent last Saturday night at one of my best friend’s house. Late in the evening, as we chatted rather energetically/boisterously, he unexpectedly got up, told me I was being kind of a d… and headed to bed. As he walked away, I asked him what was wrong, and he told me I could figure it out.

4 tips for Talking Things OutI must have thought about it while I was sleeping, because when I woke-up I had figured it out, and brought it up first thing. He told me he has been working really hard and is exhausted and a bit sensitive. At the same time, I’d done/said things that weren’t very nice. We talked for about two minutes, apologized, and were done. We’ve known each other for too long and share too much love to let this kind of crap simmer.

Another friend was listening and commented on how it was really nice to hear us talking things out. In her family, nobody does, and bad feelings simmer for years. Relationships have been unnecessarily damaged beyond repair.

Unfortunately, these sorts of split-ups happen much, much more frequently than they need or should. With resolution in-mind I have four tips/guiding principles for resolving little bumps in the road before they become mountains to climb in a blizzard. They’re one size fits all: good with parents, friends, siblings, spouse, etc.

First, we need to talk to the person EARLY: when something happens that is hurtful, angering, etc., it’s important to resolve it before it boils over. Believe me, it’s easy to tell ourselves it “wasn’t that bad” or “it’s not worth dredging up” or to “just let it go.” But these sorts of explanations/rationalizations often don’t do the trick. By initiating our conversation first thing, I didn’t sit around, anxiously chewing on my feelings, rehearsing what I was going to say. The longer I waited, the more awkward it would have gotten.

Second, we need to be HONEST with our feelings. To do this, we need to spend a little time chewing on and deconstructing incidents, such that we’re able to articulate what we think and feel. Just as I had digested what happened and was ready to articulate my thoughts and feelings, my friend was clearly prepared to talk.

Third, when we talk through things we need to be DIRECT. That is, don’t beat around the bush, hinting and hoping your point is understood, without ever making your point. My friend could have said something about how someone hurt his feelings on the playground when he was ten, hoping that I would translate that into how he’d felt the previous night. Instead, he told me what I’d said that had bothered him, and I responded directly to what he said. It’s a cliché, but mean what you say and say what you mean.

Fourth, it’s important to speak KINDLY and PEACEFULLY. When we’re hurt or angry, it’s easy to tell people how we feel, without regard for how they feel. We can yell, accuse, blame, etc., all of which are brilliant strategies if you DON’T want to resolve things or, quite possibly, make things worse.

Instead, keep in-mind how much you care for the other person. Speak with resolution in-mind. Have a vision of how you’d like your relationship to look, once a mutual understanding is reached and start the conversation with this.

I’ll admit that I’d be perfectly fine if I had little to no conflict in my life. I’m far too sensitive, and sometimes I’d rather keep peace than deal with difficult issues. Obviously my fantasy isn’t grounded in reality; unresolved conflict can be cancerous and toxic for relationships. Interestingly, if I keep these tips in-mind, it’s more likely I’ll resolve conflicts and have the peace I want.

As usual, this therapist, parent, and spouse muddles his way through a messy life, doing the best he can.

Until next time…



3 Responses to 4 Tips for Talking Things Out
  1. elizabeth
    October 28, 2016 | 8:33 am

    Good advice….Glad you worked it out….Peace in the family is an important objective.

  2. Kate Ryan
    October 28, 2016 | 10:07 am

    Steve ~ As usual you simply and directly teach what I need to know better! Thanks for your blog…it is SO worth it! Do you ever want to come to Colorado? You and your family have a place to stay if you do! Aunt Kate

    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      October 28, 2016 | 10:24 am

      Thanks regarding this blog. I was going for practical!
      That sounds awesome! Colorado would be a wonderful place to visit! It’s on our long list of places we want to visit!

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